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Demystifying Classroom Placement

At the beginning of a new school year teachers are faced with a new class and with it comes new challenges, especially when it comes to deciding who sits where. There are a few options for teachers when deciding on class placement:

  • let each student choose their own seat (and move them as necessary, usually breaking up misbehaving friends or moving the naughty kids to the front)

  • place them alphabetically

  • place them according to their academic performance

  • place bright students next to students who need help

But what do these traditional class placement strategies mean for a student's ability to concentrate, memorise and learn? Inevitably some children will end up exactly where they need to be for optimal learning, while others will be exactly where they shouldn't be and their marks may suffer.

So what is the best way to place students in class?

Students should always have their dominant ears facing the teacher, therefore left ear dominant children should sit at the right side of the classroom and vice versa. The reasoning behind this is simple: When a student's dominant ear faces the teacher, he doesn't have to unconsciously turn his head in order to hear better. This also helps minimise distractions - when a student turn's his head, he sees other things, such as another student's mismatched socks which causes distraction.

By facing his dominant ear towards the teacher, the student can look straight ahead, at the teacher or at the board, and listen as best he can with minimal distractions.

But there are more factors to consider. Children who are left eye dominant are prone to daydreaming and are always searching for something to wonder about. For this reason they should sit closer to the front of the classroom so there are less students in front of them who can distract them.

And we have the fidgeters. Too often it happens that a child has trouble sitting still in class (sometimes even labelled as ADHD) and the teacher moves him to sit right in front, sometimes by her desk, so that she can keep an eye on him. While this sounds like a good idea, it often happens that that child is picked on for not sitting still or paying attention. The child is belittled, labelled and believes he is naughty, therefore acting even naughtier and living up to his self-fulfilling prophecy. These students often see themselves as dumb, naughty, lazy, the black sheep, etc. and it doesn't bide well for their self esteem or their academic performance.

What parents and teachers should consider is that the child simply cannot sit still. This does not mean that he has ADHD and need medication to do so, by the way. The child most probably can't sit still because he has a blocked genetic brain profile, which means that three or four of his modalities switch off during stress.

In a genetic brain profile there are four modalities: the hand, foot, eye, and ear and during stress some of them may "switch off", depending on the brain hemisphere it works from. A child who has none, one, or two modalities that switch off (blockages) handles stress well and usually sit still in class. Children with three and four modalities switching off have trouble handling stress. In an effort to keep their brain from going into stress and switching off, they move their limbs, since movement is the best and quickest way to get out of stress. This is actually a natural coping mechanism to keep their brains awake and it helps them focus and pay attention. Sitting still in itself can switch off their brains, so instead of forcing them to sit still, rather teach them how to move without distracting other.

Obviously they can't jump up and run around in class, but sitting on a gym ball, putting a stretchy band around their chairs to bounce their feet on, letting them play with approved fidget toys, and so on will help keep them focussed with subtle movement that won't distract the rest of the class.

The best place to place these blocked profiles (children with three or four blockages) is actually at the back of the class where they have the smallest chance of disrupting the class through their much needed fidgeting.

There you go! Using this model in a classroom means that every child is sitting at the best possible place for them to learn. In addition the teacher is able to quickly identify the children who need extra help on certain subjects such as reading, writing, spelling, and mathematics and it is also easy to give the right children the right kind of recognition - either verbal or visual, depending on their profiles.

If the teacher still feels the need to separate some children, only move them forwards or backwards so that their dominant ear still faces the teacher.

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